- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

Surprisingly, new-home sales have risen recently in the Washington region. Sales in April, May and June were higher than a year ago, bringing total new-home sales to 6,609 for the first half of the year, according to data from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

That is a modest improvement over the 6,431 new homes sold in the first half of 2008.

Why is this surprising? Well, sales of existing homes have done rather well this year because foreclosures and short sales have pushed prices down so far.

Builders of new homes don’t have as much flexibility to drop their prices, so new-home buyers have to pay more.

That’s nothing new, really, but consider that in Prince George’s in June, the average sales price of an existing single-family home was $261,000. The average sales price of a new single-family home in Prince George’s was $380,000. That’s a big difference.

So it is significant that buyers are beginning to choose new homes in slightly greater numbers than last year.

Still, it’s a long way from a recovery. As today’s charts show, 2005 was a far better year for home builders, especially in Virginia. Maryland’s new-home sales have fallen 37 percent since 2005. Virginia sales have fallen 65 percent since then.

It is Virginia that enjoyed most of the sales improvement this year. If you compare the region’s two largest new-home markets, Prince William and Prince George’s counties, you find that sales in Prince William were up 9 percent in the first half of 2009, while sales in Prince George’s fell 7 percent.

Howard County beat every Virginia jurisdiction in the region, however, with an increase in sales of 26 percent over the first half of 2008. Also, sales in the District rose a surprising 42 percent.

Contact Chris Sicks by e-mail (csicks@gmail.com).

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